CARROLL, Iowa – A critically acclaimed book has been yanked from a high school literature class in Carroll, after the school district's superintendent expressed concerns the book has inappropriate sexual content.
Carroll Schools' Superintendent Rob Cordes hasn't read all of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" but says a scene in which the books protagonist, Gilbert Grape, receives oral sex from an older, married woman is out of bounds for high school students.
Cordes says a parent expressed concerns about the book, which has been taught in Carroll High School's literature-to-film class, which also includes books such as John Grisham's "The Firm."
"What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" was written by Peter Hedges, an Iowan, and has been taught in Carroll for several years.
"I believe there's some material in there that's inappropriate," Cordes said.
Others aren't convinced. Carroll High School teacher-librarian Kelly Fischbach said the book deserves to be judged in its entirety, not for a few sentences.
"It's a great book," Fischbach said. "Kids love it. Boys who are at risk love it — you know, the people whose test scores [reading comprehension] we're trying to raise."
Fischbach said the novel by Hedges, a West Des Moines native, connects with rural Iowa teens.
"It's a story about a boy in Iowa who is stuck in a job that's going nowhere, living in a dysfunctional family," Fischbach said.
Cordes says the issue in the high school is a curriculum one, not a matter of censorship as "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" is available for students to check out on their own accord in the school's media center.
Fischbach said the library has 25 copies of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" — 13 of which are checked out by students.